The holiday bounty on Broadway last week included a new Thanksgiving attendance record, with close to 290,000 theatergoers adding up to the best-attended Turkey Day week ever recorded.
The final tally of 288,018 isn’t quite on par with the usual Christmas-New Year’s crowds, which last year totaled almost 350,000 for the week ending Jan. 4, and sales didn’t ring up quite as high as last year’s Thanksgiving frame. But with top earner “The Lion King” ($2,436,498) leading a pack of a dozen shows to earn more than $1 million each last week, Broadway still proved plenty popular over the 2015 holiday weekend.
Newer titles to do well included two shows in previews — Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “School of Rock” ($1,304,251) and the latest revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” ($1,221,716) — as well as Estefan bio-musical “On Your Feet!” ($1,261,413) and, of course, megahot “Hamilton” ($1,833,886). All of them joined perennial packleaders like “Lion King,” “Wicked” ($2,290,873) and “The Book of Mormon” ($1,771,091) in the millionaires’ club.
Holiday weeks often prove particularly beneficial for shows with all-ages appeal, such as “Fiddler,” “School of Rock,” “Aladdin” ($2,048,348) and “Matilda” ($1,158,878) — the latter of which shot up by a whopping $475,000, compared to the prior week.
Not all titles skyrocket over the tourist-jammed holiday week, however. Plays, which tend to draw from a smaller and often more local audience pool, don’t benefit much, although “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ($716,314) — one of the better-known non-musicals now playing, thanks to its Tony win earlier this year — saw a nice uptick. But plays like “Sylvia” ($306,496), “The Gin Game” ($241,917) and “Old Times” ($365,051 in its final week) all declined.
Big-name stars usually help plays draw crowds, and Al Pacino’s latest outing with David Mamet, “China Doll” ($693,200 for four), still made plenty of money despite playing an abbreviated week. But the appeal of Bruce Willis couldn’t stop a slowdown at “Misery” ($711,371); the slippage could be attributable to some combination of mixed reviews and the fact that the thriller was probably not the most obvious choice for audiences looking for holiday fare.
“China Doll,” which opens Friday, was one of four previewing titles on the boards last week, along with “School of Rock,” “Fiddler” and the revival of “The Color Purple” ($736,425). The latter climbed, but not spectacularly — although the production can probably bank on a boost after it opens, should reviews in New York prove as strong as the ones the show earned in London.
Overall Broadway box office last week came in at $33.9 million for 38 shows now playing (as opposed to $34.1 million over Thanksgiving last year, when there were 36 productions running). The next few weeks should also prove fairly strong, with year-end audiences reaching their peak around Christmas and New Year’s.